Beef Osso Bucco

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Classic Italian Osso Bucco uses veal shanks, chicken stock, and white wine to make a delicious, slow-cooked stew to serve over potatoes, rice, or polenta. For the beef version, we use beef, beef stock, and red wine and can be a little more generous with the seasonings.

This recipe involves a fair amount of chopping but is extremely easy, basically foolproof, and unbelievably rich and flavourful. Plus you can cook it ahead of time and reheat it— which actually enhances the flavour— for a super stress-free dinner party.

4 generous servings

4 beef shanks, cut 1 1/2 inches thick
1⁄4 cup flour
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon pepper
1⁄4 cup vegetable or olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
8 garlic cloves, chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
3 large carrots, roughly chopped
2 strips bacon, chopped (optional)
1 hot chili pepper, chopped
1⁄4 teaspoon sage
1 teaspoon parsley
1⁄4 teaspoon thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cups good quality beef stock (add more if necessary so shanks are almost submerged)
3⁄4 cup red wine
1 – 14 oz can good quality tomatoes
Gremolata

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Dredge the shanks in the flour, salt and pepper mixture. Heat the oil over high heat in a large stainless steel pan and brown beef shanks 2-3 minutes per side or until dark and crusty. Remove to a large Dutch oven.

Reduce heat to medium and add carrots, onion, garlic, celery, and bacon, if using. Stir together 2-3 minutes. Do not brown. Add the herbs and hot pepper and cook 5 minutes more. Add the wine and deglaze the pan by scraping up the brown bits; gently boil for 3-4 minutes. Add the beef stock and tomatoes and heat through.

Pour the mixture over the beef shanks in the Dutch oven, cover, and bake in for 2-1/2 to 3 hours or until meat is tender and falling off the bone. Serve with mashed potatoes and garnish with gremolata.

Crispy Spicy Whole Chicken Wings

crispy-baked-chicken-wings

I love me some crispy chicken wings— and I like ’em whole, because the wing tips get so extra-crispy that you can almost crunch/eat every bit. A deep fryer is not among my appliances and I won’t attempt to cook my wings in boiling oil on top of the stove, so oven-fried is the obvious choice. But they are never crispy enough.

So the following recipe, adapted from Epicurious, works pretty well. The tricks are these: Just lightly oil and season the wings before popping them in a hot oven, and be prepared to slightly overcook them; as in, don’t whip them out of the oven when the thermometer reads 165F. No, whip them out when they are cooked through and the skin is delectably crisped. And add your flavour sauce to the cooked wings or for only the latter part of the cook; in this case, a simple Buffalo hot sauce, but you could try an Asian-based ginger/soy or maybe a lemon and herb sauce.

Makes about 60 wings, or servings for… nevermind.

5 pounds whole chicken wings, patted dry (you may of course remove the tips and separate)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Buffalo sauce:

1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup hot pepper sauce (such as Frank’s)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Set a wire rack inside a large rimmed baking sheet. Place the wings, oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and toss to coat. Spread out in a single layer on the sheet. Bake wings until cooked through and skin is crispy, 45–50 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the Buffalo sauce: Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the cayenne, pepper and and salt; let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk in hot sauce and keep warm.

In a large bowl, toss the cooked wings with the sauce and serve.

VARIATIONS:

  • Toss the cooked wings in the Buffalo sauce and broil for 3-5 minutes before serving.
  • Skip coating the wings with Buffalo sauce or any sauce and just dip the crispy baked wings in your sauce of choice or Frank’s Hot Sauce right out of the bottle.

Bow Ties with Tuna and Slow-Cooked Onions

bowtie-pasta

Are you making your pasta all wrong? I was. Plus I recently learned some other tips that I should have known all along. This is a longish post, but the dish is super easy…

It turns out the best way to serve up a delicious plate of pasta is not to boil it up, mix it with a ton of sauce (perhaps with an extra dollop on top), or worse, pour the sauce onto a plate of just-drained pasta, and dig in.

I taste-tested this easy saucing technique, and it makes a world of difference. You simply reserve some of the pasta water, slightly undercook the macaroni, then toss it in the sauce on very low heat, adding pasta water as you go, for about 5 minutes. You can reserve a small amount of the sauce, if you like, to garnish the finished dish.

Chefs and good cooks do this. How did I miss out? I can only plead not guilty (or guilty?) by reasons of ignorance, expediency, and tradition.

This method of saucing pasta can be used with virtually any recipe, from a hearty tomato ragout to a delicate lemon pepper sauce. Even a plain Pasta Alio Olio gains flavour and a rich texture by allowing it to finish in a pan with its own pasta water.

I made Pasta with Tuna last night, using a small can of tuna— this it generally is not my favourite dish. It has tuna, sometimes peas or arugula in it, so I think of it as a somewhat healthy way to add fish to our diet.

This time, I used the saucing technique briefly described above, and also tried a different method of cooking onions and garlic, and the results were really flavourful and delicious, unlike my previous bland tuna and bows, which tasted like nothing other than canned tuna and a half-hearted dressing.

So here’s how I did it:

Bow Ties with Tuna and Slow-Cooked Onions

Servings: 2

1 quarter onion, chopped
2 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
12-16 oz bow tie pasta (or shells, rotini or whatever strikes your fancy
2 handfuls arugula or spinach
1 tsp crushed chilies
1 – 170 g/6 oz can of chunk tuna in water
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Chopped fresh parsley and/or grated Romano cheese (optional)

About an hour before serving, put the onions, garlic, about a tablespoon of olive oil and a tablespoon of water in to a sturdy pan; cover, and simmer on very low heat, stirring occasionally, until you are ready to add the mixture to your cooked pasta. It should be velvety smooth and not browned.

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Put a LOT of salt into your pasta water; at least two tablespoons for a 2 quart pot. Cook the pasta until very al dente, about 8-10 minutes for bow ties. Save about 1 cup of the pasta water. Drain and set aside the pasta.

Place a couple of small handfuls of arugula (for a secret salad) in each of the serving plates. Top with a little olive oil and ground black pepper.

Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in the pasta pot, then add the crushed chilies and tuna, breaking it into chunks. When the the tuna is heated through, add your pasta and onion/garlic mixture and about two teaspoons of ground black pepper. Toss gently, and add about a quarter cup of the reserved pasta water. Keep tossing, adding more pasta water, up to one cup, for about 5 minutes until the pasta is luxuriously coated with the sauce. Taste for seasoning, and serve atop the arugula salad (which will wilt and taste delicious.) Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and a little grated Romano cheese, if you are so inclined.

 

VARIATIONS:

  • If you don’t have time or don’t remember to start the onions and garlic ahead of time, just put them on for as long as you can, starting with a higher heat and reducing it to simmer.
  • Add thawed frozen peas to the pasta while you are tossing it with the pasta water. Be sure to heat them through.
  • Toss in a little grated lemon rind, or finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon.
  • Use spinach instead of arugula for your secret salad.
  • Chop up anything fresh from your garden and add it to your toss. I had some tender young leaves of kale that I used in the above recipe.
  • Try this recipe with a small can of salmon.

Prime Rib Roast for 2

prime rib

Beef is expensive these days, so I find we are eating smaller portions, less often. That’s basically boring. The reason we carnivores love beef is for that juicy, tender, roasted deliciousness. While slow cooking lesser cuts often yields wonderfully flavourful results, the real deal– a perfect roast or steak– is preferable to hiding all that beefy goodness in complicated and over-wrought preparations.

So prime rib is really expensive, and I buy it as a treat, for a special occasion or for a grey, cloudy weekend that needs a luxurious interlude. And it needs to be cooked perfectly, or there goes (at current prices) twenty or thirty dollars down the drain. Or up in smoke.

This recipe worked perfectly the other night. I like my beef rare to medium rare, so take your own preferences into consideration, as well as the exact size of your prime rib and the accuracy of your oven. An instant-read thermometer is a godsend here.

Servings: 2 with leftovers

2 lb prime rib roast (approximately; there will probably be one attached rib bone)
Olive oil or softened butter
Fresh ground black pepper

1 small onion, cut in chunks
1 large carrot, peeled and cut in two or three inch pieces
1 tbsp flour
¼ cup dry red wine
1 cup beef stock (I use Better-than-Bouillon)
Seasonings

Preheat oven to 450F. Rub cut sides of roast with olive oil or butter; season with ground pepper (you can salt if you want, but many cooks say salt draws out moisture). Place rib side up in a roasting pan, surrounded by seasoned onion and carrots.

Roast for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350F, and continue to roast, basting once, for another 40-45 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 120F.

Remove the roast from the oven, tent with foil, and let rest for at least 15 minutes. Remove onion and carrots to a separate roasting dish and continue cooking in the oven until ready to serve.

For the gravy: Add the flour to the fat and drippings, stirring to create a roux. Heat, stirring, for a few minutes, then add wine and cook for one minute. Whisk in the beef stock and continue stirring until smooth and thickened. Add salt, pepper and seasonings of choice (I usually keep it simple and add only a bit of parsley). Thin with more stock or wine if the gravy gets too thick.

Using a sharp knife, separate the roast from the rib and carve into slabs. If someone likes gnawing on a bone, and someone always does, toss them the rib bone. Serve with potatoes and/or Yorkshire pudding, gravy, green vegetables, and the roasted carrots and onions, if desired.

You’ll have enough in leftovers for some yummy roast beef sandwiches.

VARIATIONS:

  • Add more seasonings or a rub to the roast before putting it in the oven, if you wish. Dry mustard and garlic make a nice rub, for example. Or try rosemary, tarragon, or any dried herb that strikes your fancy–just don’t overdo it and distract from the flavour of the meat.
  • If you are a dab hand at Yorkshire puds, all the power to you! I’m not, and I buy the little frozen President’s Choice Yorkshire puddings, which take all of 4 minutes to cook in a hot oven, and are remarkably authentic (if tiny).